Release date: Nov. 26, 2003
Contact: Sally Corbett, Director of Public Relations, Arts,
at 404-727-6678 or

Theater Emory to Premiere Gunderson's "Leap"

Theater Emory will present the world premiere of "Leap," a play exploring science, art and creativity written by award-winning playwright and Emory University senior Lauren Gunderson, who already has had work produced Off Broadway.

In "Leap" two mysterious young sisters visit Cambridge student Isaac Newton and impart wisdom from the future, inspiring the thinking that would go on to become his greatest discoveries. Based on scientific and historical fact, "Leap" infuses myth, biography and science into a new story of one of the greatest minds in Western culture. This exploration of right and left brain power, relationships, youth and brilliance is only the second play by an undergraduate to be produced in the company's 21-year history. Eight performances of "Leap" will be presented Feb. 15-21, 2004. To buy tickets, call 404-727-5050 or go to

"This play came in part out of my experiences at Emory and it's an academic play, so it's wonderful to see it performed here," says Gunderson. "It's a fantastic honor. I hope people from all disciplines see the show and realize how much all of us--artists, scientists, academics and professionals--have in common."

Gunderson wrote the play because of her interest in the process of creation, and the similarities between the scientific and the artistic mind. "I was fascinated with the scientist, as opposed to simply the science, that was Newton. I wanted to parallel his life with the science he created." She chose Newton, who is famous for, among other things, the invention of calculus and the theory of gravity, because he "is one of the biggest figureheads of modern science, right up there with Aristotle, Darwin and Einstein. He did so much that affects our daily lives, and was such an enigmatic and distinctive personality, that he makes for great drama."

The sisters in "Leap," Brightman and Maria, prove to be the inspiration for many of the greatest achievements in science and art throughout history. Whether these two women are muses, angels, or something else is left for the audience to decide. Gunderson drew on her own relationship with her sister in developing the characters, who bicker and love each other as only sisters can. As they play games with Newton, they inspire in him the brilliant insights for which he would later become so famous. Along the way, the cerebral Newton is frustrated by the concrete, real-world needs of his family, embodied in his mother. "The character of the mother serves to remind Newton--and us--that while he is developing his brilliant theories, the world is still turning, and life is going on," says Gunderson.

Gunderson hopes that the audience will leave the play with a greater understanding of both the science of Newton and the man as a scientist, as well as the power of relationships. "But I also want them to leave inspired to create something of their own," she says.

The young playwright's early success has included performances of her work on high-profile stages. In 2002, her play "Parts They Call Deep" was a winner in the national Young Playwrights Festival competition founded by Stephen Sondheim and was one of only three winners selected for full productions Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater as part of the festival. Previous winners of this award include Rebecca Gilman, whose play "Spinning Into Butter" was nominated for the Pulitzer prize in 2002. Gunderson has had other plays produced, including short plays at PushPush Theatre in Atlanta and as part of the New York 10-Minute Play Fest. One of her plays is a finalist for the Heidemann Award for 10-minute plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Her recent work, "Background," has just won the 2004 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, making her the first two-time winner ("Parts They Call Deep" was a recipient in 2001). The new play will be produced as part of Essential Theatre's 2004 Festival of New American Theatre in the Top Shelf Space at Dad's Garage, opening on Feb. 18.

General admission tickets are $15 for general public, $12 for Emory faculty, staff and discount groups, and $6 for Emory students. Tickets may be purchased through the Arts at Emory Box Office at 404-727-5050 or online at Parking is available in the Peavine Parking Deck. Performance dates and times follow:
Feb. 12-13* and 19-21 at 8 p.m.;
Feb. 14-15 and 21 at 2 p.m.
* Feb. 13 is a pay-what-you-can performance
"Artists Up Close" discussion follows 2 p.m. show on Feb. 14.


Theater Emory is the producing organization of Emory University and is affiliated with the Department of Theater Studies. It is a member of the Atlanta Coalition of Performing Arts and operates under a seasonal agreement with Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.

Emory University provides a dynamic, multi-disciplinary environment for the study, creation, and presentation of the arts.


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